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Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Nick Ut reflects on the day he captured the iconic image known as ‘Terror of War’ and ‘Napalm Girl’

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Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Nick Ut speaks with the press on Thursday, April 28, 2016, outside of the LBJ Presidential Library, during a three-day Vietnam War Summit. Ut won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for his photo of Vietnamese children fleeing their village after a napalm bombing. As part of the Vietnam War Summit, UT participated in a panel discussion called ‘The Power of a Picture,’ with former White House photographer David Hume Kennerly, who also won a Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam War coverage. LBJ Library photo by David Hume Kennerly 04/28/2016. Public Domain image.

Few photographers who have ever pressed a shutter release can say they’ve captured an image that changed the world. There are those that can though, and one of them is Nick Ut, an award-winning photojournalist who captured the iconic image titled ‘The Terror of War’ while documenting the Vietnam war for the Associated Press (AP).

This image, also referred to as ‘Napalm Girl,’ shows a nude 9-year-old girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, running towards the camera alongside four other children and four men dressed in military attire. Behind them is a black cloud of smoke, the result of a South Vietnamese napalm strike that was intended for a different location. This photograph was published in newspapers and magazines around the world, and proved to be one of the defining images that changed public sentiment surrounding the Vietnam War. It was also the image that won Ut the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and the 1973 World Press Photo of the Year.

Below is a photograph of Kim Phuc standing in front of the iconic image ahead of an exhibition featuring Ut’s photographic work captured in Vietnam:

Embed from Getty Images

June 8th will be the 50th anniversary of Ut capturing this image and in an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Ut looks back at what led to this image being captured, how the rest of the day played out and ultimately questions whether or not a single photograph can help end a war.

Below is a photograph of Phan Thị Kim Phúc holding another photograph of her captured by Nick Ut:

Embed from Getty Images

Ut’s harrowing account goes into great detail about why he was inspired to become a photojournalist, how he ended up documenting the Vietnam War and what events led up to, and followed, him pressing the shutter on a series of photographs that would result in the now-iconic image. His story shows that while we often see war photojournalists as the documentarians of conflicts taking place around the world with the ability to remove themselves from what they’re capturing, the reality is they are oftentimes in the center of what is happening and are far more involved than the pictures suggest.

Ut ends his piece, saying:

‘I am proud of my photo and the emotions and conversations it created around the world. Truth continues to be necessary. If a single photo can make a difference, maybe even help end a war, then the work that we do is as vital now as it has ever been.’

You can read the full story at the Washington Post using the link below:

Opinion | A single photo can change the world. I know, because I took one that did.

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